Underrated Gem: The Long Riders (1980)

Plot: The origins, exploits and the ultimate fate of the Jesse James gang is told in a sympathetic portrayal of the bank robbers made up of brothers who begin their legendary bank raids because of revenge.

I must continue to preach the Gospel of Walter Hill so today I wanted to recommend one of his earlier pictures which is an awesome Western called the Long Riders.

It has an incredible cast of siblings including David, Robert & Keith Carradine, Dennis Quaid and Randy Quaid, Stacey Keach and James Keach as well as Nicholas and Christopher Guest. The Supporting cast includes James Remar, Harry Carrey Jr., Chris Mulkey, Edward Bunker and Lin Shaye. Interestingly Jeff and Beau Bridges were set to play the Ford brothers, but they could not fit it in their schedules which is a shame as they would have been fantastic.

The cast alone is a good enough reason to watch The Long Riders, but this tale of Jesse James and his band of not so merry men is an easy watch that’s fast paced and oozes authenticity with the way the characters behave feeling very much of the time it’s set.

You can tell Walter Hill had worked with Sam Peckinpah before (Hill wrote The Getaway) as the bullet riddled finale is filled with slow motion including horses jumping through windows which Peckinpah made his own.

Like the majority of Hill movies this is unsentimental with the men being immoral with David Carradine stealing the show as Cole Younger; he’s not a particularly nice person but he’s believable especially in his attitude towards women. The real Cole Younger must have been made of steel as he sustained 11 gunshots in his last raid but died at the age of 72 in 1916 40 years later.

This is one squib-tastic movie where the violence feels bloody (as it should) but it doesn’t glorify it; if anything it shows the consequences of the lives these men lead and by the end you’re envious of no one.

This was the first movie Ry Cooder scored for Hill and although it’s not as cool as the likes of Last Man Standing it’s still a perfect music score for this film.

All of the performances are faultless here with the cast all at their best and their wild antics will keep you glued. James Keach is very restrained as Jesse James making him feel enigmatic where he is unpredictable but charismatic.

Overall, if you haven’t seen The Long Riders but love violent, action-packed movies with incredible casts then you should seek this out as it’s one of the most underappreciated Westerns of the 80’s.